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Archived updates for Monday, March 31, 2008

Strong Prima Facie Case of Obviousness Not Overcome by Objective Evidence of Nonobviousness

In Agrizap, Inc. v. Woodstream Corp. (March 28, 2008), the Federal Circuit decided

. . . a textbook case of when the asserted claims involve a combination of familiar elements according to known methods that does no more than yield predictable results. KSR, 127 S. Ct. at 1739. The only difference between the Gopher Zapper and the asserted claims, as conceded by Agrizap, is the type of switch used to complete the circuit that triggers the generator. The asserted claims simply substitute a resistive electrical switch for the mechanical pressure switch employed by the Gopher Zapper. As illustrated by the Dye and Madsen patents, the use of an animal body as a resistive switch to complete a circuit for the generation of an electric charge was already well known in the prior art. In favoring resistive switches over mechanical switches, both the Dye and Madsen patents are directed to solving the same problem as the ’636 patent—the malfunction of mechanical switches in environments prone to dirt and dampness. See ’746 patent col.1 ll.43-46, ll.53-63; ’809 patent col.1 ll.31-55.

In this case, the objective evidence of nonobviousness simply cannot overcome such a strong prima facie case of obviousness. Similarly, in Leapfrog Enterprises, Inc. v. Fisher-Price, Inc. we held that the objective considerations of nonobviousness presented in that case, including substantial evidence of commercial success, praise, and long-felt need, were inadequate to overcome a strong showing of primary considerations that rendered the claims at issue invalid. 485 F.3d 1157, 1162 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Based on the foregoing, we reverse the district court’s denial of Woodstream’s motion for JMOL as to the obviousness of the asserted claims.
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